Wednesday 12 December 2018

Hansen staying 'flexible' after Aussies stun All Blacks

Israel Folau
Israel Folau Sportsdesk

The All Blacks' end-of-season tour has taken on added significance for coach Steve Hansen's planning ahead of the 2019 World Cup, after the world champions were beaten 23-18 by Australia on Saturday.

Hansen will name an extended 37-man squad today for the five-match tour, which includes tests against France, Scotland and Wales and games against the invitational Barbarians and a French Selection.

"We will be taking a decent sized squad and be looking to be smart about how we prepare," Hansen told reporters in Brisbane.

"It will require quite a bit of work from the staff and some good planning, a lot of which we have done already. As long as we are flexible in our thinking we should be fine."

Against the Wallabies their attack did not flow, with fly-half Lima Sopoaga struggling to take control of the match, while Australia's desperate defence harried the All Blacks into making errors.

That has been characteristic of the season, with opposition defences, starting with the British and Irish Lions, able to shut down time and space and put their backs under pressure. The Wallabies also stopped the All Blacks' forward momentum by smashing into tackles and at the breakdown.

The defeat ended what has been an enigmatic international programme.

On three occasions - the 30-15 first Test win over the Lions, the first 50 minutes of their Rugby Championship clash with Australia when they raced to a 54-6 lead and a 57-0 demolition of South Africa last month - they showed that when they get it right no team can cope.

They were unable, however, to maintain that consistency throughout the year, and from week to week, which could be crucial in Japan.

Despite those frustrations, Hansen has two years to iron out the issues.

"The wheels on the bus keep going around, in two weeks' time we have to play another game and we'll take those (lessons) and we'll use the hurt that's here to grow," he added. Australia, meanwhile, will not be bringing star full-back Israel Folau, who was sensational on Saturday, to Europe for next month's autumn.

The 28-year-old scored his 12th international try of the season in their first win over the world champions since 2015. "It's a good time for him to have some time away from the spotlight, just sit down and relax," head coach Michael Cheika said.

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